Beijing has fired back at concerns over recent elections in Hong Kong voiced by the Five Eyes countries, the EU and the G7. It insists the West is using ‘democracy’ as a pretext to interfere in its internal affairs.

The sharp retort came on Monday courtesy of Zhao Lijian, the spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry. Reacting to claims that Beijing had undermined Hong Kong’s democratic electoral system with its overhaul in March, the official said the West did not, in fact, care about democracy in China’s special administrative region, but was rather just using it as a pretext to “interfere in Hong Kong’s politics and China’s internal affairs” in general.

Zhao called on those nations criticizing the Hong Kong elections to “look in the mirror,” as they themselves were not exactly the “top students in the democracy classroom, anddefinitely not qualified to be teachers,” he said. He concluded by advising China’s critics to “take care of their own house first,” pointing to “failures in the fight against Covid,political polarization, [and] racial discrimination.

A senior official in the Chinese government’s representative office in Hong Kong also hit out at claims by the Five Eyes countries – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US – that democracy in Hong Kong was being “eroded.” He called the criticism a “political farce” and added that the “days when foreign forces could use their political agents to interfere in Hong Kong affairs are over.

The Hong Kong authorities issued a statement on Tuesday in which they dismissed recent Western allegations as baseless and hailed Sunday’s general election in the territory as a “success.

China’s embassy in Australia also released a statement, in which it described the electoral process as having been “fair, equitable [and] open,” and asserted that “Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong.

Pro-Beijing candidates enjoyed a landslide victory, netting more than 90% of the seats in the local legislature. However, the turnout was relatively low, with only 30.2% of residents casting their ballots. China conducted a major overhaul of the Hong Kong electoral system in March, which, among other things, introduced a vetting procedure, with only “patriots” allowed to stand for public office.

On Monday, the foreign ministers of the Five Eyes’ group of nations denounced Beijing’s pressure on Hong Kong’s electoral process, which they said had “eliminated any meaningful political opposition.” The EU and G7 nations joined the chorus, calling on China to put an end to the “unwarranted oppression of those who promote democratic values and the defense of rights and freedoms.

Hong Kong was a British colony before it was ceded back to China in 1997 on condition that it would retain broad autonomy and enjoy certain freedoms until 2050.